The Keeping of Boundaries:

A Ceremony for Separation

Photo by R Y on Unsplash

This ritual draws on mourning practices, personal reflection, and the ritual of tashlich, or “casting-away,” to help a person after the break-up or ending of a romantic and/or sexual relationship. It is specifically designed to offer emotional and physical release for a lifecycle experience overlooked in our traditional liturgy, which includes legal rituals for divorce. It also makes space for polyamorous Jews to mourn the ending of relationships that might otherwise be labeled taboo, illicit, or “secondary,” implying that their end or transformation could not possibly bring grief and hardship. Rather, this ritual honors the difficult decisions all people make in ending a relationship that might have involved commitment, though it did not involve a ketubah (Jewish legal marriage contract) or other formal declaration. It is written for one celebrant (the person mourning the relationship) and one witness, but can certainly be adapted for more or fewer participants.

You may recognize in the ritual the practice of covering mirrors when in a period of mourning; here, this action is adapted in order to allow the celebrant first to see themself as they are, then to let go of any self-judgment, and finally, to see themself as they are, again, having survived the ending of an important relationship. Similarly, the practice of washing one’s hands after returning from a cemetery are employed to help the celebrant demarcate between acute mourning of this loss and continuing their life, and their capacity for love. It is not intended to mimic “washing away” the person with whom they had a relationship, but to step away from actively mourning. Finally, the ritual of tashlich, normally practiced with bread or birdseed, comes from Jewish High Holy Day traditions, when we distance ourselves (spiritually and literally) from our past sins, missteps, and mistakes. Here, the “casting-off” need not reflect any admission of sin or guilt, though the celebrant may want to acknowledge the ways they contributed to the end of this relationship. Hopefully, the casting away of negative aspects of the past relationship can help the celebrant focus on another crucial part of this ritual, hakarat hatov, or the acknowledgement of the good.

The blessings chosen for this ritual are rendered in so-called “traditional”…

Rabbi Nikki DeBlosi (she/her)

queer belonging. sex positivity. creative ritual. inclusive judaism.